TRips: A-Day thoughts

What we already knew: Christion Jones was productive in the spring's first two scrimmages; we just didn't know all the different ways he's capable of putting up numbers. Working from the slot, he's a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, who, if nothing else, learned one thing from Saturday's scrimmage: Do not ask an inside linebacker to cover Jones on a crossing route.

Jones will impact the game both on offense and special teams.

While the grab he made of a 17-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron in the second quarter was extremely impressive, I'm not sure I've seen an Alabama receiver close on a pass like the sophomore did on what initially looked to be an attempt to ditch the ball by McCarron. And that was after he gained considerable separation from Dee Milliner, Alabama's top corner.

*Speaking of McCarron, there's no question he's more comfortable in the role as "The Guy" than he was a year ago. He seems to have achieved a level of confidence reserved for guys like Matthew Stafford in that an interception isn't going to discourage the junior from taking shots in the passing game.

McCarron's command of the position combined with weapons like Jones and Kenny Bell at receiver should lead to considerably more explosive plays than a season ago. That said, don't expect the Alabama offense to be as free-and-easy with the passing game in the fall as it was on Saturday.

*Alabama has had better centers, guards and tackles than Barrett Jones, but the Crimson Tide has never had a better offensive lineman.

*Defensively, the inside linebacker and defensive line positions are among the positions that have officially entered reload mode. As important as Dont'a Hightower and Josh Chapman were to the defense the past two seasons, Nico Johnson and Jesse Williams won't signal drop-offs at their respective positions.

Compared to previous UA nose tackles, Williams will present a different kind of challenge to opposing offensive lines in that he's more playmaker than plugger. As for Johnson, he may not be as versatile as Hightower, but he's reached a point in his development where he should be considered a legitimate every down linebacker.

*The fact that Vinnie Sunseri had a hand in multiple turnovers didn't come as a surprise. To some, though, the fact that a guy who was once considered a "tweener" position-wise is quickly becoming one of the more versatile coverage guys on the nation's top defense might be.

What we learned on Saturday: Heading into A-Day, an argument could have been made for Lamonde Russell as the top receiving tight end on the field Saturday. Russell, who caught 51 passes in Homer Smith's offense in 1989, worked as the umpire on Thomas Ritter's officiating crew in the scrimmage.

Given Russell's presence, it was fitting that six different Alabama tight ends caught passes on A-Day, including running back-turned-outside linebacker-turned-H-back Brent Calloway, an athletic upgrade at the position who showed some after the catch ability in the scrimmage.

*What is it with these high school kids these days, anyway? Sure he was a five-star recruit, but T.J. Yeldon simply wasn't supposed to be this well-rounded so early in his career. Most impressive to me was the way Yeldon handled himself in the passing game, especially for a youngster dealing with an arm injury.

*In the race between junior college transfers, Deion Belue is ahead of Travell Dixon at corner. Then again, a lot of UA corners may be behind Belue, who can also play star, in the near future. We knew Belue could run, but he's further along as an all-around football player than I thought he would be.

*It wasn't just talk where punter Cody Mandell is concerned; there is now video documentation to support talk that the junior has improved. After a so-so opening quarter, Mandell unloaded punts of 42, 49, 66, 51, 57, 60 and 47 yards in succession. The 2012 Alabama defense may benefit from the one thing the past two units didn't: an upper-echelon SEC punting game.

What we're still trying to figure out: Adrian Hubbard appears to be on the cusp of stardom as a pass rushing outside linebacker. Now he needs another edge guy to go with him. Between Xzavier Dickson and Ryan Anderson, there should be enough talent at the jack position to free up Hubbard to move around.

*Understanding that the Alabama defensive line is loaded with talent, Saturday did little to ease depth concerns where the Crimson Tide offensive line is concerned. Given the numbers along both lines of scrimmage, it's reasonable to think freshman Alphonse Taylor will continue to work on the offensive side of the ball.

*If you don't think Cade Foster's 48-yard field goal in front of a large crowd Saturday was critical to his psychological well-being then you didn't pay attention to the junior's post-kick reaction. That was the happiest anyone has seen the junior in Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2010.

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